Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Second Comings

I am not Christian in any way, shape, or form, but while on this subject, what if the Second Coming touted by the Christian's has already happened? Maybe it took a form unrecognizable to them. What if the current rise of Environmental Consciousness and other iconoclastic Aquarian ideas are the real coming they have been predicting for years. Maybe it is an idea or an awareness and not a person.

Ideas can be divine. They can also be pretty earth-changingly powerful, am I not mistaken?

Boy will some people be disappointed...

Here's another thought; What if the coming of the Anti-christ was really the coming of Industrialization?

Friday, July 25, 2008

What if the Apocalypse Happened and We Didn't Even Notice?

I was thinking a few days back, about many different world issues, as I am prone to do when my mind wanders. I Thought of an intriguing possibility. What if the "End of the World" has already happened? What if we are too self absorbed to notice? Maybe it is in some form or fashion that we will not or cannot recognize.

Peak Oil, Global Warming, Nuclear War Take your pick... What if the rise of Industrialism was really the end of the Earth, and we just haven't figured it out yet?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

13 Ways to Promote Consumption

I found this on http://peakoilhausfrau.blogspot.com/

When the entire economy depends on infinite growth, it is important to remind the consumers of their primary job - buying expensive stuff and wasting energy. Here are some highly effective methods to promote these very behaviors.

1. Design the built environment properly - No house should have a bike rack, a clothesline, or a Sun Oven. Homes should be far from anything useful and require maximum energy usage. Design highways, not public transport and bicycle lanes. Power stations, not solar panels. Make it difficult for consumers to be energy efficient, use less stuff and burn less gasoline. Make them spend tons of time and energy on research if they want to do something differently. Let them know: It's so much easier just to use what's already there!

2. Break up familes - Families should be as separated as possible - no more living in close proximity to each other, and definitely not 3 or 4 generations in one household. Spread them out! This way, when families part ways, a whole household of things must be purchased - furniture, lawn equipment, linens, kitchenware, tools, decorations. Even items used only once or twice per year will be purchased. Isolation from family also promotes consumption of leisure and entertainment goods. Plus, they will need to purchase frequent flights to visit Grandma and Pa. Bonus!

3. Promote ignorance and specialization
Make sure the consumers know that they should specialize in one thing - their job - and buy products or pay other people to do everything else. Remember, for every problem, there is a product or a service. Here's a list of things the consumers should not know:
How to fix things.
How to grow food.
How to cook bake or sew.
How to calculate the true costs of maintenance of appliances, cars, homes.
How to figure the cost of the interest on credit cards, mortgage, the auto note.

4. Stimulate fashion - Anything that is visible to others is a good candidate to be replaced every 3 or 4 years. Clothing, the color of paint, the material for countertops, carpet, and especially cars. Since cars can easily last 15 years, fashion is especially important!

5. Create social expectations - When our consumer shows up to work, they should be expected to look and smell a certain way. We undertand that this requires soap, facial soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deoderant, razors, shaving gel, hair dryers, hair gel, mascara, nail polish, toilet paper, tampons, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Not to mention cover up makeup, lipstick, eye makeup, base, powder, lip liners, eyeliners, eyelash curlers, and perfume as well. Ha ha ha ha ha!
When our consumer buys a house, it (and especially the yard) should be expected to look and function a certain way. The lawn requires a trimmer, a mower, a fertilizer spreader, fertilizer, pre-emergent, water hoses, a sprinkler, pesticides, herbicides. The house needs updated kitchen and bathrooms and floors, appliances, cleaning agents, new furniture, decorations, art, entertainment system. It's something new every year. Trust me folks, it's like printing money.

6. Design products with obsolescence in mind - Make sure that technology changes frequently. After 5 or 6 years, new programs won't work on the old computer any more. And what use is a VCR or tape player now?Design things so that they break after a certain period of time. They might not have to, if they were made well, without cheap plastic parts. What's the point in fixing broken things when it costs more to fix them as it does to buy one brand new?

7. Provide cheap credit
Why wait to buy something when you can have it now instead? If we have done our jobs properly, our consumers can't figure out the cost of the interest, so they don't even really know how much they are paying. (Do you know what the true cost of the mortgage of a $250,000 house over the course of a 30-year mortgage at 6%? It's $539,000. That's called a PROFIT.)

8. Send women to the workplace and expect a 10-hour day
With mothers working, families have to purchase daycare, Pampers and formula. With 2 people working long hours, there is less time to cook meals at home, cook meals from scratch, clean the house, do the yardwork, grow a garden, shop for bargains - and there is more money to pay someone else to do these things instead.

9. Kill off public places and community events
In many places, if you want to be around people, that literally means paying to go somewhere, or exposing yourself to lots of tempting shopping opportunities. And people do need to be around people. This is why teenagers hang out at the mall all day long. There's no real public equivalent anymore.
Or we could encourage the consumer to just watch or interact with people electronically. So feather their nest at home with computers, entertainment centers, media rooms (!!!), cable television, high-speed internet, stocked liquor cabinets, etc. etc. etc.

10. Sell disposables
An easy way to get people to buy more is to make something only worth using once. So sell them paper towels instead of rags, Kleenex instead of handkerchiefs, tampons and pads instead of Divas and Lunapads, toilet paper instead of cloth wipes. These are so prevalent now that no one can even imagine the alternatives. Good job, folks!

11. Isolate people and make them anxious and afraid
Give them more of what they don't need, and less of what they do need. Less time with families, less interesting work, less nutritious food, but more anxiety about the kid's education, Grandpa's health, retirement, the state of the economy, the dying planet.
How will they treat themselves right? How will they get through the day with all these worries and not enough fun and relaxation, no interesting conversation about things that matter, no time to spend with friends? Will they buy a latte and a martini, or Prozac and a gym membership? Maybe they need a manicure and some highlights in their hair. A snazzy new car or a kitchen remodel might make them feel better. But really, the best thing would be a vacation, or a house in the country. If they have to take on loans or pay with credit, all the better.

12. Structure their lives
Everyone knows how life is supposed to look. First you go to high school, then college. Of course, then you need a job and a new car. Then you get married, have kids, buy a house (not necessarily in that order). If you can associate huge, expensive costs with all these things that people "must" do to live like normal middle-class folk, you've won half the battle! Why, by the time they get out of college they owe us 10 years of debt service. And what GENIUS came up with the requirement to spend $20,000 on one day of celebration? We owe that guy, big time.

13. Sell them "Health" care
If we've done our job properly, people will be reeling from all the toxins in the environment, lack of nutritious organic food, stress, and no time to take care of themselves. Just one more opportunity to sock it to them twice - with insurance and health care!
This is also a clever way to keep them where they belong - working for us. Trust me, they will never be able to leave a job with health care benefits once they have kids. Keep them on the treadmill, ok?
Seriously, if we can make people miserable by starting them off in debt, working them to death, while expecting that they look and act a certain way, and making sure they don't know any different, we can lay back and watch the money roll in.

Posted by Hausfrau at 8:00 AM

Monday, July 7, 2008

From work and spend to work and, well, more work

This little essay is a work in progress. It may is a little rough, but I'm letting you have it all the same. I guess, when it comes down to it, what I'm trying to say is that the cost of living and leisure time rewards of environmental living are harder to reap if you live within a culture that still prioritizes consumption.

One of the things I often talk about is how about building community and spending more time with kids, for example, would make us happier than does the huge material consumption we have become accustomed to. Indeed, to my way of thinking, one of the top benefits of a lifestyle or culture that prioritizes a respect for and effective use of resources would be more leisure time.

Because if you use fewer resources then you get to spend less time digging them out of the ground, moving them around, molding them into the stuff you want, and working to pay for them. Juliet Schor says in her book the Overworked American that, because of productivity increases, if we accepted a 1948 standard of living (in terms of goods and services and, presumably, levels of resource consumption), we could have a four hour work day or take every other year off.

But instead of getting more leisure time as productivity goes up, we tend to get more income. American employers, for a host of reasons including training and turnover costs, would much rather have fewer workers toiling all the hours than double the workers with a more leisurely schedule.

So we get a harried schedule where American workers put a full work-month more every year than their European counterparts. In return, we get disposable income which we can exchange for consolation prizes at the nearby mall.

Long working hours, in other words, deserves some of the blame for our environmental catastrophe. They help fuel the lust for stuff. They also get the blame for stress-related heart disease and psychological problems and kids who don't get to see their parents enough and not enough time with friends and on and on. Unhappier planet, unhappier people.

And for a while there, during the No Impact experiment, in addition to letting go of the material pleasures, we worked really hard at filling our lives with the non-material satisfactions. Friends came over and played charades. We had more dinner parties. We spent a lot of time with Isabella doing stuff like splashing in the Washington Square fountain.

What I had postulated proved to be true: that time spent doing inherently satisfying things that were free and didn't use planetary resources made us happier than spending the same time working to pay for things that weren't free and did use resources but which advertisers suggested would bring the same satisfactions.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was able to make this work because of the structure of my work life as a book author. Typically, I have a lazy year with lots of leisure (research) and then a crazy busy stressful year with nothing but work (writing).

The charades and water fountains all happened during the research year. Now, I'm working all the hours and, believe me, I'm not throwing too many dinner parties--however much they might contribute to my life satisfaction.

I've been feeling guilty about this, and never more so than on Friday night at the Hudson River Park. That night, my three-year-old Isabella and I sat on the grass. She pretended to be a teacher at her school and instructed me to be Isabella. At one point, presumably reflecting something that happened at school, she grabbed me by the chin and said, "Isabella, if you don't stop talking you will have to stay in the classroom while everyone else gets to go play in the school yard."

Well, here's the thing. I don't want Isabella to stop talking. I want her to talk and talk and talk. I love when she talks. The best thing I ever hear is, "I want to tell you something, Daddy." What is going on in my life that every day she goes to a place where someone might tell her not to talk?

And this quote from Juliet Schor's book, referring to the beginning of the industrial revolution, didn't make me feel much better: "Putting little children to work at school for very long hours at very dull subjects was seen as a positive virtue, for it made them 'habituated, not to say naturalized, to labour and fatigue.'"

Oh hell, I'm probably just suffering from the growing pains of being a dad, here, but the point is, I don't feel right about the amount of time Isabella spends in nursery school, and even though I'm not a consumer and I'm not spending money on stuff, there isn't much I can do about it.

I'm not reaping all the benefits, in other words, of living environmentally. I'm not getting the leisure time to spend with my girl and I'm not entirely sure why. Partly, it's, as I said, the structure of my work. But why, while I'm working so hard, couldn't Michelle, say, work fewer hours?

Partly because we still need two incomes and partly because jobs aren't structured that way. There is something problematic about trying to move towards a less consumptive lifestyle while living within a culture that still puts facilitation of consumption first.

In a world that recognized the satisfactions of family life beyond the need to produce and consume, perhaps Michelle's work would be more flexible. Perhaps part of the reason we need two incomes is that, even though we consume less and would gladly work less, the high cost of living reflects what people who are stuck in the work-to-spend-to-consume treadmill are willing to pay.

Perhaps a culture that used productivity increases so we could work less instead of spend more--that put non-material satisfactions before material ones--prices would reflect the need to spend less. Who knows?

What I'm trying to say is that the benefits of living a non-consumptive lifestyle would improve in a society that prioritized the values of human and planetary happiness. This is part of why it's important to work for cultural change as well as to changing our individual lifestyles.

The good news: that in a culture less centered on stuff and use of material resources, those of us who want to might be able to spend more time with our kids. Perhaps, too, it will be a world where we don't have to habituate our children to labour and fatigue. And one where our three year olds can talk as much as they damn well please.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Our Acid Oceans...

Acidifying oceans add urgency to CO2 cuts from PhysOrg.com

It's not just about climate change anymore. Besides loading the atmosphere with heat-trapping greenhouse gases, human emissions of carbon dioxide have also begun to alter the chemistry of the ocean—often called the cradle of life on Earth. The ecological and economic consequences are difficult to predict but possibly calamitous, warn a team of chemical oceanographers in the July 4 issue of Science, and halting the changes already underway will likely require even steeper cuts in carbon emissions than those currently proposed to curb climate change.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rats in a Maze...

Back in the 1970's, a famous experiment was conducted in which a large number of rats were placed in a big "rat house" and allowed to over-populate. The results were quite startling. What was found was that aggression levels and general anti-social behaviors became the norm. Where at first the occupants assisted each other to survive and performed acts that benefited the colony, when the population reached high levels, it became every rat for themselves. Then the colony collapsed and they all died. How do this apply to Humans? We are starting to see behavior like the results from this famous experiment in places with large human populations. With the expected rise of the world population to well over 8 billion in the next decade, this could be a bad sign.

We are seeing more instances of the general public performing outstanding cases of neglect and abuse. Whether this is a new thing or a result of increased media coverage is still unknown. On June 19th, a woman passed out and died in a King's County hospital waiting room, in full view of the hospital staff. Video caught her convulsing on the floor for at least 45 minutes before anyone stopped to help her. This story is simply one of many. Add to this the stories of pregnant women being killed for their babies, and other assorted vileness. It makes you wonder if any is connected or related to the rats in the collapsed colony. Are we all just rats in a large colony that is beginning to show signs of over-crowding?

The experiment's results are waiting to be seen...